March 7, 2021

What is it that Ecommerce Clients (really really) want?

Dr Peter Mowforth

The Spice Girls sang “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want”. It’s a good two-part question.I’m suggesting that you get a different answer if you ask the simple “what do you want?” when compared with the much harder task of establishing what the customer really really wants.We often get tenders from enthusiastic business owners. Sometimes they have been inspired by the business owner or executive looking at other ecommerce businesses that they want to emulate. All too often clients hugely underestimate why some websites cost as much as they do. We once had a client with a budget of £30k who wanted a site ‘just like B&Qs DIY.com’ and were shocked when they found out that the B&Q investment in their website had been £60million. Worse still is when they are assisted by business advisors who themselves are not hands-on ecommerce experts and don’t fully appreciate the consequences of seemingly minor adjustments to a specification.

What should start as a really simple and straightforward ecommerce project sprouts every conceivable arm and leg. As a supplier we’re then faced with having to respond to an over-bloated piece of work whose cost could easily be several times what a more practical solution should be. What’s particularly worrying is that when this happens, with absolute certainty we know that the whistles and bells will add nothing to the sales on a future web site. Invariably, the added noise introduced by the extra complexity is more likely to reduce the conversion ratio for website sales.When ecommerce customers want to buy something they want it to be quick and easy. The site should be quick to load and make it clear exactly what the customer is buying as well as communicating trust. Beyond that, all the customer wants to know is ‘how much?’ and ‘when am I going to get it?’. Some whistles and some bells can improve an online business but the addition of complexity is best implemented post-launch where a proper analysis can be done to see if the proposed new feature is an overall benefit or a hinderance. Every business and every market is different. Optimising every aspect of your ecommerce in order to maximise business success means that every ecommerce website will end up with numerous niche customisations. However, when starting out, the rule of thumb should always be to start with a minimal viable offering. Think ‘Simple is Good’.If implemented properly, ecommerce platforms can be easily added-to and improved as the business evolves and grows. This is all part of the nip-tuck-tweak marginal gains approach to business improvement and scaling.If the issue is to make full use of an initial capex (capital expenditure) budget, a far better approach is to build a minimal website and then include within the capex budget sufficient resources to run a range of marketing experiments. These should be seen as part of the initial site testing process and as an integral part of the project. However much effort goes into user-testing and trialling, the proof is always down to whether it works with real customers. By working I mean making profitable sales. Doing this is the only way to establish whether the site is fit for purpose.Instead of asking the client what they want a better approach is to try to establish what they really really want. Once you've peeled away the layers then, nine times out of ten, you’re left with the same answer you have for almost all questions in business ... and that’s profit.

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